Pouring milk on your morning cereal gives you a calcium boost, but it also provides a dose of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most plentiful mineral in your body, equaling 1 percent of your total body weight. This crucial mineral exists in all of your cells and supports the function of your tissues, bones, muscles, heart and kidneys.
Bones and Teeth
Approximately 85 percent of the phosphorus in your body is found in your bones and teeth. Calcium phosphate is a compound that makes your teeth and bones strong. The calcium and phosphorus in your diet replenish these supplies and offer protection against osteoporosis, a damaging bone-loss condition that increases your risk of bone fractures. Due to smaller bones, women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men.
Muscles and Nerves
A balance of calcium and phosphorus also supports nerve function and the contraction of all of your body's muscles, including your heart. Phosphorus helps reduce sore muscles after strenuous exercise. The parathyroid glands, located behind the thyroid gland in your throat, controls your body's calcium and phosphorus balance. If these glands malfunction, the imbalance of these minerals upsets nerve, muscle and bone function. Common symptoms include tingling in the feet, hand cramps, irregular heartbeat, fragile bones and joint pain.
Phosphorus plays many other key roles in the body. The phosphorous in your cells contributes to the growth and repair of your cells and tissues. Phosphorus is a key component of DNA, your personal genetic code. When new cells grow in your body, your DNA is reproduced. In your kidneys, phosphorus supports the filtering of waste. Phosphorus even plays a role in the functioning of other nutrients. Iodine, zinc and vitamin D all require phosphorus to be properly used by your body.
Adults need 700 milligrams of phosphorus per day. The best sources are meat and milk products, but grain products also contain some phosphorus. Phosphorus deficiencies are rare, but a balance of calcium and phosphorus is needed for good health. Heavy soda drinkers may be at risk for bone loss, because the phosphoric acid in soda may cause calcium loss from the bones. Balance your calcium and phosphorus by eating a well-rounded diet. Many high-calcium foods, such as dairy products, are excellent sources of phosphorus. For good health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating 3 cups of dairy each day.
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Phosphorus Nutrition and the Treatment of Osteoporosis.
- Mayo Clinic: Hypoparathyroidism
- Mayo Clinic: Soda Consumption Linked to Obesity, Type II Diabetes and Other Health Concerns
- MedLine Plus: Phosphorus in the Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Phosphorus
- USDA: How Much Food from the Dairy Group Is Needed Daily?
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.